My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, January 6, 2012

Exploring Feather River and Lake Oroville.

I spent New Year's Day at a Christmas Bird Count in Oroville.  I realized that there are lots of places for camping, boating, hiking, biking, fishing, and birding in that area and decided to come back.  Then I read about Feather Falls, which is supposed to be the sixth tallest falls in the U.S. and decided to hike in to see it.

Last Wednesday was a beautiful day for a hike so I set off just at dawn to find that falls. 

Soon I found my GPS knew nothing about Feather Falls.   I stopped at the Visitor Center  in Oroville, after stopping for coffee and directions to it, and got literature which gave me the directions. Soon I was climbing towards the sun as I went north of Oroville often in third or fourth gear.  I changed from  medium sized roads to ever smaller, steeper, and twistier roads until I came to the road marked as the road to the Feather Falls Trailhead. There I found a map showing two trails to the falls.

I had to stop several times along the way to admire Lake Oroville, made by damning up Feather River.

This is part of the map showing the area. Signs said that the upper trail was 4.5 miles long while the lower was only 3.5 miles long.  But the lower trail was closed for a bridge replacement. I was pretty sure I'd make a 7 mile hike but wasn't too sure if I'd survive a nine mile hike.  But I was there and the scenery was pretty.  


The trail was wide and easy and was going downhill.  Most of the large oaks had beautiful moss (or ferns) on them.

I  set my camera's timer and took a picture of myself.  I was glad I had my hiking poles with me.  I have a knee that hurts when  hiking downhill and that's mostly what this hike was. And I could use arms and legs to get up the hilly spots.

There were several tiny streams but one bigger Frey Creek that had a falls just before I crossed it on a bridge. I enjoyed sounds of moving water at least half of the time I was hiking.

Most of the time, I was hiking in deep shade because the sun's angle was too low to reach over the tops of the mountain, and there were lots of tall evergreen trees. But this was a wonderful spot full of light and with tall trees making a canopy.

At almost three miles into the trip, I found Bald Rock Dome. There was a sign there that told about how it was made by a volcano. 

Shortly after this I found the three mile marker and my rational self convinced my wild child that I should not attempt to complete this hike. Sane self also pointed out that, so far, the trail had been about eighty percent downhill and I would have that ratio of uphill on the way back.  I still have a sore heel and am stiffer than usual so that was probably a good move. But I resolved to get more fit, lose some weight, and go back and start earlier.  I'll probably try it again in a couple of weeks.

The way back looked very different with more sunlight getting to the ground.

The day was warm enough that I was hiking in a fleece shirt and a light jacket.  But it was way to cold for this salamander that was weakly moving on the trail.  After I took his picture, I tucked him into some leaf litter.

This bench is less than a mile from the trail head and seemed unnecessary, particularly as there were very few places to rest the rest of the way. But on the way back, I did take a water and rest break here.

I was out by 1:45 P.M. so decided to visit the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. It has a wonderful museum in it and the tower lets you see the lake from this location.

One of the exhibits was on the local Native Americans.  These were some of their baskets.

 I managed to struggle up two flights of stairs to view the lake.

When I picked up the literature about the area, I read about the Feather River Scenic Highway and all the wonderful things I could see.  One of them was this pair of bridges, the historic Pulga and Tobin bridges. Pulga is for automobiles and crosses Tobin. I got there and managed to stop in a private driveway and hike down the narrow road with no edges just in time to get this picture before the last of the light was gone.

 I was now about sixty-five miles from home so turned around. I saw glimpses of a beautiful sunset but couldn't find a place to actually see all of it.  Then I got to the Vista Turnout I had noticed on the way north and quickly pulled in there and practically fell out of the car.  I was almost immediately joined by four other cars, all intent on enjoying the sunset.

It was a beautiful day from start to finish.  And I will see that waterfalls before I leave.